MI Gov Snyder lawyers up in Flint lead poisoning crisis
At a cost to taxpayers of nearly half a million dollars, Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder has contracted with two outside attorneys regarding the Flint lead poisoning crisis, an administrative spokesman announced Thursday.
One of them, reports Paul Egan, is a criminal defense attorney who will serve as “investigative counsel.” The investigatory counsel’s task includes digging through and processing emails and other records related to the crisis, something required for the governor’s release last weekend of thousands of emails associated with the crisis:
Eugene Driker, a civil defense attorney, and Brian Lennon, a criminal defense attorney, were each awarded a contract worth $249,000 through Dec. 31, after which those contracts can be extended, Snyder spokesman Ari Adler told the Free Press.
The contracts, which are to be paid with state funds, are just below the $250,000 threshold for contracts requiring approval from the State Administrative Board, which meets in public to approve state contracts and grants. Adler said that was by design because the governor wanted to hire the attorneys quickly in early February. The administration will be going to the State Administrative Board on March 8, seeking approval for additional spending on the contract with Lennon, he said.
The Michigan attorney general’s office is handling a deluge of lawsuits that have been filed because of lead contamination of the city ‘s drinking water after it switched its source from the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department to the Flint River. The two outside lawyers have been added to provide extra legal help.
Thousands of people have been poisoned as a result of the contamination, something aides to the governor’s office were warned could happen just a few months after the switch was made in April 2014. Last year, a doctor discovered a spike in lead levels of a number of children in Flint. Lead is a powerful neurotoxin that can cause brain damage and other developmental problems in children. Many scientists say there is no safe level.
Meanwhile, Chris Savage at the progressive, Michigan-focused Eclectablog reported Wednesday that documents show a $7 million emergency state loan issued last April to Flint barred the city from returning to the Detroit water system. In addition, the loan agreement required Flint officials to stick with the Karegnondi Water Authority, a new regional water system that won’t be finished until this summer. The agreement effectively locked the city into continuing to use water over which worries about lead leaching had been raised internally among top aides to the governor months earlier. Here’s the loan agreement.
The documentation was released by the Michigan Democratic Party. In a statement, Michigan Democratic Party Chair Brandon Dillon said:
“The Snyder administration effectively put a financial gun to the heads of Flint’s families by using the Emergency Manager law to lock the City into taking water from a poisoned source. While children were being poisoned, the Snyder administration was playing political power games. State Treasurer Nick Khouri, who inserted this provision, should resign or be fired immediately. There has to be accountability.”
If we learned anything about Snyder during his tenure, it’s that accountability is not something to be found in his vocabulary.
(Originally appeared at DailyKos. Image CC by Ben Gordon.)